Yesterday was “Reclaim Power” day, a collaborative adventure with activists from Climate Justice Now and Climate Justice Action that had been many months (years?) in the making. There were demonstrators from the outside — the thousands of activists who have no accreditation to get into the Bella Centre where the talks are being held, and those who had been working the process inside — lobbying, analyzing, holding press conferences and such. The point was to hold a people’s assembly on climate change when talks failed to deliver. And they are failing to deliver big time.
Silvia marched with Via Campesina from the outside. I had one of those precious “secondary badges” so I planned to go see how things were with those intending to march out of the Bella Centre. It was obvious that things were not to go as planned as soon as I got on the subway and heard that the Bella Centre was closed due to crowd control. However, as the train sped by the venue, there was no crowd in sight, only lines of police men and police wagons. For the last few days, people have waited up to 10 hours for their accreditation but today there was really no crowd to control.
By the time I had walked from the neighbouring station and gotten through security, I was pretty sure I had missed the action. This happens so frequently here with all the line-ups — for food, for coats, for registration, for everything. By the time you get what you need it is too late to get to where you need to go! Plus, I got the news that some of the key groups had actually been kicked out — including Friends of the Earth, avaaz and tck,tck,tck! But then I spotted Tom Goldtooth from the Indigenous Environmental Network and a small crowd of cjn members –they linked arms and started to shout : Climate Justice Now! Reclaim Power! Support the South! Join the People’s Assembly! They were surrounded by cheering delegates, curious media and lots of police. They held firm, yelled loud, and went to meet the thousands of people waiting outside who had left from other points in the city earlier that day.
After increasingly depressing days of pouring over the turgid prose of international climate negotiations, watching some action felt great. The crowd was small but the sense of purpose and solidarity was strong and those who seemed to be leading the parade were properly trained in civil disobedience and knew what they were doing — stopping at various points along the way to warn participants that the likelihood of arrests was increasing. They ended up in a standoff on a bridge, with heavily equipped riot police telling them they could go no further. A little ways off in the distance, you could see the rest of the People’s Assembly, where police violence had already broken out and arrests were reportedly taking place. Then there was a confrontation as police tried to force demonstrators off the bridge. People watching from the sidelines, shouted “Shame on Denmark” and “The World is Watching”. When we tried to return to the Bella Center, we were informed that no NGOs would be allowed back into the building.
Connie Hedegaard the cop President and Danish Minister chairing the talks resigned and her more conservative Prime Minister took over the talks. Friends inside have reported very bad news on the drafts coming out at the last hour — notably a reference to “soil carbon management in agriculture” — which actually means climate-ready crops and biochar under lulucf (Land-use and land-use change and forestry). The few colleagues who are still inside are desperately working with delegates to get rid of that language but there will be the habitual arm-twisting that takes place in the last hours of every negotiations. People are furious that NGOs have been kicked out of the talks and the Danish Foreign Minister’s attempt to mark the problem by setting up an “alternative venue” with tv reports is laughable. In fact, it looks like it might be another yes men stunt. Civil society has venues a-plenty in Copenhagen — we have taken over the city quite literally. What we are lacking is any meaningful influence over the outcome as governments dither, deny and delay.
As I watched the plenary at the end of the day over the internet, the text on long term cooperation (hah!) actions was being discussed. Mauritius proposed that delegates go home to bed, the one proposal that was unanimously adopted.
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